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January 05, 2006

Residential Condominium

What do I own and what am I responsible for?

Ana and Marc Bateman

Over the years, condominium owners ask many of the same questions in an effort to better understand condominium ownership and responsibility. In today's article, as well as some of the forthcoming articles, we will be addressing some of those Frequently Asked Questions.

The first question that often comes to mind is “As a condominium owner, what exactly do I own and what am I responsible to repair and maintain?”

Whether you are a new or seasoned condo-minium owner/resident, the aforementioned question is one of the most often asked. The answer however, can be somewhat complicated.

In order to fully understand your obligations as a condominium owner and resident, familiarizing yourself with your condominium corporation's By-laws is the first step to under-standing the rules that govern the corporation, and thus the rules that owners and residents are required to abide by.

As the Condominium Property Act of Alberta states, when an owner has purchased a residential unit, inside of a building that is intended to be used for residential purposes and in the case of a bare land unit, where the unit is also intended to be used as a residential unit, unless otherwise stipulated in the condo-minium plan, the boundaries of ownership are:

•  the portion of the floor, wall or ceiling, as  the case may be, that forms part of the  unit is:
•  the finishing material that is on the interior of the unit, which includes any lath and plaster, paneling, gypsum board, flooring material or any other material that is attached, laid, glued or applied to the floor, wall or ceiling.
•  All unit doors and windows located on the interior walls of the unit are also part of the unit unless otherwise stipulated in the corporation's condominium plan.
•  All unit doors and windows located on the exterior walls of the unit are part of the common property unless otherwise stipulated in the corporation's condominium plan.

The exception to the aforementioned are condominium plans registered prior to January 1, 1979, in which the common bound-ary of any unit is, unless otherwise stipulated in the plan, the center of the floor, wall or ceiling.

With that being said, everything within the defined unit boundaries is the owner's responsibility to repair and maintain as well as to keep in proper and safe working order.

As stated, all of the finishing materials inside the residential unit are the responsibility of the individual owner. In the case where the condominium is brand new, and a New Home Warranty exists, the owners need to address the developer and/or the New Home Warranty Program provider regarding any deficiencies that exist inside their unit. If they notice deficiencies in the common property, and on the inside or the exterior of the building, they should also report them. All deficiencies or concerns, once noticed should be reported and dealt with in a timely manner and within the specified time frame allowed for in their new purchase documents. All such deficiencies should also be reported to the condo-minium corporation, the board, the management company, and the warranty program provider, so that there is a “paper trail” in order that all parties involved can be made aware of the all unit and common area concerns. Some deficiencies such as no heat or inadequate heat in the unit or problems in the domestic water supply, may be a result of troubles that exist outside of the individual unit and would therefore not necessarily be the responsibility of the unit owner.

If new condominium deficiencies are not reported and/or rectified in a timely manner, and within the warranty program's specified time frame, the costs of repairs could become the unit owner's responsibility by default. DO NOT assume that your concerns will be

addressed without your follow-up. You should exercise your due diligence by ensuring that your concerns are reported and rectified within a reasonable time period. You should be informed as to how and when the item(s) of concern will be addressed.

If you have questions regarding your warranty program, contact your warranty provider to ensure your concerns are addressed and no important dates are missed that would adversely affect your ability to have a potential claim processed.

Owners should ensure that the following items are inspected in their unit on a regular basis, as these items may be their responsibility to keep in good working order. It is prudent to do so, so that they do not pose any risk to the owner or the condominium corporation.

•   All plumbing inside of the unit which can include taps, pipes, toilets, washer and dishwasher hook-ups should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that there are no leaks that could lead to increased utility costs, damage to the unit, damag to the adjacent or other units and damage to the common property.
•   The ventilation system, including fans and vents that allow for air to be properly exhausted from the unit  as well as dryers, should be looked at to ensure that lint or any other foreign objects do not keep them from functioning correctly. If units are not properly vented, humidity can become trapped inside and can create problems in the unit as a result of the high levels of humidity.
•   Electrical systems from the unit's breaker box including all electrical outlets should be inspected to ensure that they are operating correctly.
•   Smoke detectors in the unit should be tested regularly to make certain that they work when needed.
•   Heating systems and fireplaces need to be looked at on a regular basis to ensure they are operating as per their original design specifications.
•   Hot water heating lines need to be inspected to make sure that they do not develop leaks.
•   Above the regular maintenance, forced air furnace systems require that their filters be changed regularly and circulating hot water systems need to have the heating fins vacuumed on an ongoing basis.

If an owner in not sure what to look for when inspecting the above said, they should contact their manager and ask for their advice regarding these matters. In cases where a person does not feel comfortable undertaking the inspections or maintenance, they can ask their manager to supply them with the names of qualified individuals that can provide assistance in these regards.

It is important to note that an owner is responsible to repair and maintain items in their unit and failing to do so could result in damages that may in turn create liabilities for the owner. The unit owner may in some circumstances be held responsible for damages by the condo-minium corporation and charged back for any and all repairs that had to be under-taken as a result an owners failure to repair and maintain items in their unit.

Do make an effort to read and under-stand your condominium corporation's by-laws and policies and when in doubt….Ask.   CL

Marc Bateman, BA, ACCI, CPM, is the President and Broker of Acclaim Condominium Managers.
Ana Bateman, BSc, MEd, is an Agent and the Managing Director with Acclaim Condominium Managers.

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